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David Winnick (Walsall, North): My right hon. Friend mentioned the middle east. Are not the terror organisations that mastermind the suicide bombing of civilians totally opposed to any form of peace process, and do they not use religion and politics to carry out those
The Prime Minister: I understand that, but I also think that we must be aware of the fact that Israel has been subject to terrorist attacks on its civilians in the heart of Israel. Some of those terrorist attacks were undoubtedly organised from the occupied territories, so the problem that Israel has is how to take action against a terrorist threat that comes from the occupied territories without it going into the occupied territories. That is why I think that, in the end, Israel will take security measures and that we must be at least reasonably sympathetic to the fact that any country faced with this number of its citizens being butchered in terrorist attacks would take action. We must be sympathetic to that while saying that the only long-term solution to the problem is to ensure that we have a political process capable of resolving it.
That political process must be based on the security of Israel and a viable Palestinian state. I continue to think that if, each time there is a terrorist outrage, we scrap all thought of a political process, we hand the keys of the process to the terrorists. That is why we need to understand that Israel will take reprisals, and to condemn totally the terrorist outrages that are happening. However, we also need to do everything that we canand we willto try to make sure that a political process gets under way.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Does the Prime Minister agree with those EU Governments who say that a country has to introduce compulsory ID cards if it wishes to be successful in dealing with illegal immigration?
The Prime Minister: No, I do not agree with that. The issue of ID cards must obviously be decided by each country according to its merits. People sometimes say that the reason for the pressure on asylum here is the absence of compulsory ID cards, but let us get some facts straight. First, this country, if we consider it proportionately in terms of population, is in the middle of the pack on asylum applications, and not at the top. Indeed, I think that in terms of overall applications Germany has now outstripped us again. Secondly, the pull factors here are often to do with the strength of the economy, particularly in the south-east.
The other point that I would make to the right hon. Gentleman is that our asylum applications declined by 11 per cent. in 2001, whereas those in France increased, I think, by 22 per cent. and in Germany by 12 per cent. It is a common European problem. Although ID cards may form part of the solutionhe knows the discussions that are going on about themI do not think that they provide a full answer. One part of the answer is undoubtedly to work with third countries so thatas with Afghanistan, for exampleif there is a change in their circumstances, we make sure that the third country illegal nationals are taken back.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right: it is important to address the problem at a bilateral level with France. That is why the Home Secretary is meeting his opposite number in Francetomorrow, I thinkand obviously he will discuss such issues, including security at Frethun.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): Did the Prime Minister agree with the leader of the Liberal party when he said that enlargement would be impractical unless there were major changes to the common agricultural policy? Was there agreement at Seville on the major changes in the common agricultural policy necessary to enable countries in central and eastern Europe to join the European Union? If not, why not?
The Prime Minister: Because it never was the case that we were going to discuss the common agricultural policy in detail in Seville. It is being discussed by the Agriculture Council, and in the context of the accession negotiations with individual applicant countries. It is very important that we get reform of the common agricultural policy. Indeed, it will be unsustainable without reform, which is the position of this country and many others, including Germany.
We are under the particular difficulty that any agreement has to be agreed unanimously. Although there is qualified majority voting in the Agriculture Council, that is not the case at the European Council, which is why it is extremely important that we continue to put every pressure we can on other countries, a minority of which are standing out against that reform. However, I would not want to send out a contrary signal on enlargement. The enlargement process has been a big success. We pushed for it, and it would be unfortunate to send out a signal to any applicant country that we intended to hold up the process. At the same time as we pursue the accession negotiations, we have to pursue reform of the common agricultural policy, which is vital.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): In the discussions on migration and asylum seeking, did the conference discuss why people seek political asylum, what poverty and forms of political oppression they are fleeing from, and what support can be given to the poorest countries in west and east Africa to assist people to have a better standard of life there? Did it also consider the large volume of arms sales by western European countries to many of the poorest and most oppressive regimes around the world, which cause people to flee to Europe in the first place?
The Prime Minister: In respect of the latter point, we are making a big push towards conflict resolution in different forums. Part of that is a responsible arms sale policy. On the first part of the question, the Council drew a clear distinction between legal migration and help for genuine asylum seekers, which we support totally and
However, it is not inconsistent with that position to be wholly opposed to illegal immigration, and in particular to what comes with itthe trafficking in human beings and the organised crime, and the people who come into the country not on the basis of proper rules and a proper system, but on the basis of who can pay the organised criminal most. That is why it is important for those of us who believe in the potential of legal migration to take the initiative on illegal migration; otherwise, we vacate the field and leave it to extremists who adopt a hard ultra right-wing agenda that is against any form of immigration, as we have seen in certain parts of Europe. That is not right and does not help. It is important to take action on the illegal side so that we can better present the case for legal migration.
Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire): The Prime Minister told us that there would be no Euro army, and there will be; he told us that there would be no corpus juris, and there will be. Why should we believe what he says about border control and Euro border guards?
The Prime Minister: The Conservative party is wrong about the so-called Euro army. Let me explain it again. There is a proposal for Europe to have the capability, where it decides to do so and where NATO is not engaged, to undertake European defence operations for peacekeeping, humanitarian and other limited purposes. That is important, because we cannot be in the position where we are not able to act unless America acts. The proposal is not anti-American. On the contrary, it applies where America, for various reasonsfor example, in Macedonia todaydecides that it may not want to act. In those circumstances, we should have the capability to act, but in respect of each operation there is a sovereign decision of each country whether to participate.
There is no question of Britain committing its armed forces to a standing European army. That has never been the proposal. The idea is to have the capability, if we want to use it, for Europe to undertake operations where America does not want to be engaged. I think that that will add a string to our bow, not take one away.
As for the European border police, if we were the previous Government we would probably have said, "We are not having any discussion of this whatever." Instead, we have entirely secured our own position, because of the protocol at Amsterdam. No one can impose anything on us. We have a complete veto on anything that is agreed. However, I do not think that it is foolish to consider the feasibility[Interruption.] People should listen to what I am saying instead of shouting out. When we take 10 extra countries into the European Union and when we extend the border of Europe many miles eastwardthat is precisely the point, with some of these countries, where illegal people trafficking is happeningI do not think that it is foolish for Europe at least to ask the question whether[Interruption.] It is not foolish to ask the question whether it is not better that Europe can do something together.